What Was It Like to Be an Olympian? Brandon Escobar Talks About His London Experience
When we contacted Brandon Escobar, he was, not surprisingly, on his way to wrestling practice. The 21-year old Suffolk County resident didn’t take much of a break after competing in the 2012 Olympics at 55 kg for Honduras. Now back in the United States, Escobar talks about stepping on the mat in London, sharing a meal with famous athletes and his plans for a long future in the sport. For more on Escobar’s journey to make the Olympics, see here.
A big part of the Olympic experience is the Opening Ceremonies. What was it like to be a part of that?
Brandon Escobar: It was really something else. All of the hype about it made sense. It was so exciting. I was taking it in, enjoying it. But after that, it was all business. I wanted to enjoy my time, but I had my goal in mind. I wanted to get a medal.
After the Opening Ceremonies, you had around two weeks until you competed. What was your schedule like for that time?
Brandon Escobar: I stayed in London and trained with Team Cuba since I was the only wrestler from Honduras. Cuba didn’t have anyone at my weight — they had mostly heavier guys so there was no issue with me working out with them. It was great. I felt that I was in great shape and ready to go.
Did you get a chance to see any of the other events during that time?
Brandon Escobar: I saw some of the events on TV. My choice was to either go see an event or rest before my next practice. For me, it was easy to pick resting because I needed to be as ready for practice as possible. Wrestling is a sport where you need to be working harder than the next guy. Hard work is a confidence booster for me – so to be able to work out 2-3 times a day made me feel better. So I rested and watched the other sports and used it as downtime before the grind. It was something I needed for myself. I watched weightlifting, judo, a little basketball and soccer. I really enjoyed watching the gymnastics – those girls are amazing. Mostly, I had to stay focused on my own event.
Did you get to meet any other athletes or celebrities while you were there?
Brandon Escobar: I actually got to meet a lot of the USA men’s basketball team. I was eating and found myself at the table with them. I got to talk to LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, James Harding and Anthony Davis. They were really cool people, good company. It was cool to see people at that level be humble and just talk to everyone. That really showed me something. Even when they were eating, they were doing interviews and taking pictures with people. They were so smooth about it, so nonchalant. Everyone knows they’re great athletes but I saw that they were good people too.
After being in London for several weeks, you finally got to wrestle, against Mihran Jaburyan. (The Armenian won in two periods). What was it like to be on the mat at the Olympics?
Brandon Escobar: It was really interesting. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if I should be worried or wrestle cautiously. But right before I walked out there, I just felt relaxed. I’ve been doing this for so many years and I thought it would just be doing the same thing on a much bigger stage. I wanted to beat the guy in front of me and show what I could do. I went out and attacked and it was definitely a good experience. Now I know what it’s like to wrestle at that level on that stage.
What’s next for you? Are you taking any time off from wrestling or are you already back on the mat?
Brandon Escobar: I think I took four days off. After I finished wrestling, I went out and had a little fun in London. Then, there was the Closing Ceremonies night and the flight back. I was really tired. But the next day, I was back into training. I haven’t stopped working out. Right now, I’m running in the mornings, wrestling in the afternoons and lifting in the evenings. I’ve been wrestling at Rocky Point, Eastport South Manor and anywhere that’s open and has a place for me to roll around. That’s my day, every day. I’ll also be working out at the NYAC and might go out to Penn State to the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.
When do you next wrestle competitively?
Brandon Escobar: There are so many tournaments coming up. In a month, I’m going to Brazil for the first tournament. Then I’ll be in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe – all over the place. I’ll also be in Hondruas every once in a while to stay in touch. I’ve gotten so much help in Honduras and I’d like to promote the sport of wrestling there and make it bigger.
You wrestled freestyle in the Olympics. Will you be focusing just in freestyle going forward?
Brandon Escobar: No, I want to do freestyle and Greco. I want to do both styles at the next Olympics. My goal right now is to get a gold medal at both styles at every level – the Worlds, Olympics, Pan Americans.
My plan is to go for another 10 years – through the 2022 World Championships. That gives me two more Olympic cycles and a bunch of Worlds. In this sport, I’m considered really young (21). An infant. There weren’t too many guys my age in Olympic wrestling. I want to see it through, wrestle through my prime, have fun and on top of it all, I want to be #1 in the world.
I understand you got another souvenir to remember the Olympic experience – a tattoo of the Olympic rings.
Brandon Escobar: I got it on my ribs about a week ago. I wanted it there because I knew it would hurt and I wanted it to be something that I remember. It’s a pain I’m not going to forget just like I won’t forget my first Olympics.
Looking back, what was the best part of the Olympic experience?
Brandon Escobar: I would have to say just being there and being around amazing athletes and seeing the level that they are at. I got to know what the unknown is a little bit. I’m familiar with the environment and it will help me out in the future. I can go the tournaments now with a chip on my shoulder and a new level of confidence. I know where I have to be to get what I want. I want to be the guy, to show what I can do. I’m so fired up right now just thinking about it.